True brujos and imitators: A reading of Fernando Ortiz’s Los negros brujos (1906)

Ramon Sarró


This article offers a reading of Ortiz’s first book, Los negros brujos (). By following the theme of “duplicity” that structures the loose notes that compose the volume, an argument emerges in which reality and copy, credulity and hypocrisy, “true brujo” and brujo criollo, state and fetish, temple and museum, etc., play against each other. This argument resonates not only with how similar pairs emerged in the study of African culture but also with how anthropologists invent their object of study. By giving relevance to the verse by Cuban poet De Heredia that opens Ortiz’s book, the article highlights Ortiz’s intention to disenchant, which paradoxically leads him into a misrepresentation of Afro-Cuban ritual. Despite denouncing the lack of cultural intimacy, this article may help assess the extent to which Ortiz’s later theory of “transculturation” was signalled in Los negros brujos’s views on “communicating vessels” and “allotropy.”

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/714162